So it seems silly that I've waited this long to write about herbs that are good for nervous stomachs. I'm happy to report that I handle stress and my emotions better than I used to, but these plants are now dear friends to me, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of your tum. It's the seat of your digestive system, obviously, but also the root of your nervous system. The phrase "gut instinct" is real -- when a situation is dicey and you feel a deep-seated discomfort with it, that's your vagus nerve conducting information directly from your gut to your brain. LISTEN TO THAT NERVE.
First, a brief review of some of the plant actions you want to look for in relation to the belly. Carminatives relieve bloating and gas. Bitters wake up sluggish digestion, and move stagnation through the system. Astringents tone the tissue, sealing up a leaky gut or an oozing ulcer. Aperients are gentle bowel openers, and laxatives are more powerful bowel movers. Demulcents soothe irritated tissue associated with ulcers or acid reflux, antispasmodics ease the spasms associated with cramps and tension, anti-inflammatories combat inflammation that can arise from Crohn's disease or colitis, and anthelmintics kill parasites. If only I'd known...
The herb I chose for the main picture here is chamomile, chamomilla matricaria, which should be on the tea shelf in every Western home. I've mentioned it before for sleep, but this sunny little flower also shines in cases of indigestion and nervous stomachs. I learned to remember it this way: chamomile is for the type of person who complains bitterly when they're uncomfortable, and catnip (yes, exactly the same stuff you give your cats) is for the type of person that suffers in silence. Both of these plants have essential oils, which act as gentle bitters in the system, and are carminative and antispasmodic in action. Both are excellent in a hot tea preparation, steeped for 5-10 minutes.
Another common plant with strong medicine unknown to many who see it everyday? The root of blackberry, rubus villosus. Tincture this (steep it, chopped, in brandy for 6 weeks and strain, reserving the liquid), and take 5 drops, 3x a day, to combat diarrhea.
And finally, the other standby most of us know about without really knowing why it works: peppermint, mentha piperita. Peppermint also has a great deal of essential oils, as do all of its mint family brethren, which act as bitters. It also works as an antiemitic, or anti-nausea aid, and has beneficial carminative, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory actions. In cases of acute indigestion causing intense pain, nausea, or vomiting, I would turn to peppermint first.
I'm giving my past self a hug, apologizing to her for coming to these excellent stomach healers too late to help through many, many a long day and night spent hugging a toilet or lurching out of a car on the side of the road.
Medical Herbalism, David Hoffman
Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, Rosemary Gladstar
The Book of Herbal Wisdom, Matthew Wood
Legalese: In our society, only MDs get to say they are "treating" disease. As such, this blog post has not been analyzed by the FDA, and the advice within has not been scientifically proven to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. Please see a health practitioner for medical treatment.